The fifth session of the 2020 NAG YEO Virtual Conference hosted a spirited discussion around the day’s topic, Employee Recruiting and Retention Strategies. National Advisory Group (NAG) President John Lofstock welcomed the session’s panelists for a discussion that yielded insight into often-overlooked perspectives on store staffing and how poor policies can ripple throughout a c-store operation.
Greg Ehrlich, president of Fremont, Ohio-based FriendShip Stores with 26 locations in Northern Ohio, brought a wealth of experience from both a c-store operator’s perspective as well as his consulting background.
Mel Kleiman provided nearly 50 years of wisdom in the training and hiring profession. He is president and CEO of Humetrics, a leading provider of pre-employment attitude assessments, best practice information, training and resources for recruiting, hiring and retaining frontline, hourly employees..
The Pandemic Has Changed Expectations
The discussion kicked off with what both speakers deemed the most important issue to a worker in today’s pandemic environment: Safety. Kleiman stressed that the cleanliness issue – wiping down counters, display areas, cooler doors and handles, etc. – is a vital component for everyone in the store.
“You’ve got to show that you’re reinforcing that safety, not only for the customer but also for the employee,” he said.
It’s not enough, though, to simply find people to hire. They have to stay. Stores must establish more than only a transactional relationship with staff. Kleiman said that people are looking for an employer who cares about them. A place with a culture that holds everyone accountable, he added, is going to be paramount for keeping great employees.
FriendShip’s Ehrlich underscored that “it’s the retention piece rather than the recruiting piece that has to be fixed.”
The High Cost of Turnover
Kleiman offered that, at a minimum, losing an employee within just 30 days will cost a company at least $1,500. He framed that in the context of a store being robbed of the same amount. What would you be doing, Kleiman asked, if you were $1,500 dollars short today? “But another three weeks later, you were another $1,500 short? And six weeks later, you were another $1,500 short? I think you would do everything you could to get to the bottom of the problem.”
But financial cost to the company isn’t the only thing lost with high turnover rates. Ehrlich advised that turnover carries a cost to the customer experience. It causes a lack of stability and consistency for the customer.
“And therefore they’re not getting the same experience every time they (visit),” he said. “When you have employees that stay for awhile, they understand the vision of the company, and the culture of the company, and the marketing strategy, and the operational strategy, and everything is aligned very well — the sales in those locations tend to do significantly better than stores where we have turnover”
In the first 90 days of a new employee’s tenure, Ehrlich said, FriendShip Stores sees triple the turnover rates compared to longer stays. The company’s goal, he said, is to keep new hires for at least a year.
“One of our objectives was to become an award-winning place to work,” Ehrlich said, and outlined how the company backed it up. FriendShip Stores, he added, put together a Great Place to Work! team that includes members of store management, corporate and human resources executives, operations people and store employees.
Kleiman advised to have a “Top 10 Reasons to Work Here” list, which fit nicely with Ehrlich’s graphic illustrating the results FriendShip Stores’ team put together.
Having a list of those positive reasons for employees to devote their personal capital to your company serves several purposes, according to Kleiman. Firstly, he said that a great place to work will be a great place to shop. He also advised to use the list as an interview tool – the list is a statement of your chain’s values.
He also recommended new hires complete a personal data sheet asking a handful of simple questions like a favorite candy bar, soft drink, movie, sport or team. Those answers let managers better know employees while also giving them ideas in how to reward each employee with a small gift when they do well.
Both panelists advised finding good people through other good people – namely, from referrals from those who already work for you. A referral program is essential, Kleiman said.
Kleiman urged operators to look at hiring from a new angle. If you were spending $22,000 on a new piece of equipment, you’d put an awful lot of time into making that decision. You should make an equal time investment in choosing your people.
The 2020 NAG/YEO Virtual Conference continues on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with Emerging Trends in Foodservice. For the entire eight-session agenda, visit https://nagconvenience.com/virtual-series-agenda/. To register click here: NAG/YEO Virtual 2020 Registration. For on-demand access to past sessions visit the NAG/YEO Virtual 2020 On Demand page.